On a scorching hot August afternoon in 2009, we stood upon hallowed grounds in the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana. This group of youth and adults had traveled with me across several states, and now we solemnly walked in the footsteps of a man I consider a hero. It was here that Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce found themselves surrounded, after walking over 1,000 miles in an effort to simply find shelter in Canada. It was here that Chief Joseph famously surrendered on October 5th, 1877. It was here that so many were killed and tortured. It was here that others who escaped froze to death with no food or blankets in the nights to come. On this afternoon, some 132 years later, you could still ‘feel’ the sorrow and fear of this place.
Chief Joseph once famously said, “We do not want churches because they will teach us to quarrel about God. We do not want to learn that.” He also eloquently spoke in the years to come of how we all have our origins from the same Creator and thus are ALL siblings living upon our ‘Mother Earth.’ He taught respect, unity and equality – even as one who had every right to be angry. In my mind’s eye, Chief Joseph was a man who reflected Grace out into the world. And so, as I stood on this battleground with my brothers and sisters, knowing that this very spot was the place of his most defeated moment in life, I couldn’t help but feel Chief Joseph’s heart still beating here. Tears welled in my eyes. It was as if his voice still rang out to the centuries.
I pray often that I, too, may be a voice of Grace in this world. I pray that someone, even if it is but one person, will feel a tingle of Hope by having known me for just a moment. I pray that we may all value one another so deeply as to speak on behalf of each other rather than in opposition to one another. I pray that we may learn to see ALL people as brothers and sisters. I pray that we may come to see God’s Love as more important than our theology. I pray that one day, an age of respect will dawn upon our Mother Earth. I pray… Amen.
-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)
On a warm summer afternoon, God’s creation is calmly at play. I sit with my eyes closed for a few moments and listen to the sounds outside my office window. I can hear the breeze rustling the leaves of the majestic old tree whose limbs stretch across the street toward our building. Children are giggling as they run along the sidewalk without a care in the world. In the distance, sirens from a firetruck are blaring for all to move aside. Meanwhile, somewhere beneath my window, a bird joyfully sings to her heart’s desire. These are the sounds of summer.
There is something peaceful about these sounds, and this season. Perhaps it can be attributed to the bond we share with the creation around us, as every creature and person enjoys the beautiful outdoors. Maybe it is the sabbath rest we seek this time of year as we intentionally step away from our life’s callings to spend time with those we love. It could also be the warmth, and the lack of harsh conditions as we venture into the world. For me, it is the sounds themselves. They harken back to my childhood, and an easier time. The giggles of children and the rustling leaves remind me of whiffle ball games with friends in our backyards, and the trees that were our bases. The song of a sparrow reminds me of walks at the park with my parents ‘visiting’ the ducks and birds. The sirens remind me of school days and class trips to the fire station where we could climb into the truck. Life was so easy then, and our summers were precious and care free.
These few moments with my eyes closed provide me a glimpse of a peace that is today beyond my adult understanding. They provide me with a sabbath rest. Far too often it is easy to forget that which is true of God’s creation…it is meant to be enjoyed! Here we live amongst that which God so loves and cherishes. Here we experience the work of God’s heart. Here, in this place, we are always children…to God. And thus, on a warm summer afternoon, this child closes his eyes for just a moment, to simply observe that which is ever so holy to God’s attentive ears. Amen.
-Rev. Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)